Help! My kids won’t let me go out…

Posted by Samantha on March 10, 2012 in Babysitters, Empathy |

I remember when my husband finally noticed the pattern between our children’s response to being left with a babysitter and HIS behaviour earlier in the day!

If he’d had a great day hanging out with them and generally been attentive to them then they bid us good-bye with kisses and waves and proclamations of love all round.

If during the day he’d been too busy for them or easily irritated by them, then it wasn’t such smooth sailing when we left for the evening.

I’d like to claim that I’d twigged it too.  But I hadn’t.

Somehow I instinctively knew that if I wanted to go out at night / get the kids to bed 20 minutes earlier / take the day off to hang out with a friend, then I needed to up the connection time with the kids beforehand.

Daddy hadn’t figured this out.  And I hadn’t figured out that he hadn’t figured it out.

Probably just as well really as I do quite enough telling him how to parent as it is.

The bottom line is that parents do not need an entertainment license from their children.  You do not need your child’s permission or agreement to go out for the evening.

That said it can be upsetting for parents if children get distressed when they leave to go out.

What is called for in these situations is a loving but firm approach and plenty of empathy for the child.  We can understand and sympathise with a child’s desire to be with their parents.  We do not need to either condemn their fears or comply with them.  We can find the strength to follow through with our plans like an adult.  It doesn’t help a child to plead with them not to be upset.

Instead we can say something like “I know you’d rather be with us than the babysitter.  You prefer when we’re at home.  Sometimes you get scared when we’re out.  But Mommy and Daddy are going out tonight to see friends / have dinner / spend some time together and we’ll be back later.

No matter what our child’s exact objections are, we can reply “I know you wish I could stay with you, but this is my time to go out”.

The ‘broken record’ technique is useful in these instances.  Repeat yourself as many times as you are happy to, and then leave.

It is not in your child’s long-term interests to have a veto over whether you go out or stay home.

As an addendum to all that however, it is worth noting that you need to be really honest with yourself about whether your child has a reasonable point and you might consider reducing the number of nights they spend with the babysitter.

Good luck!


ps – I am indebted to the late great Dr Hain G. Ginott for the concept of the “entertainment license”.

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